You’re standing in line, waiting to check out, or you’re sitting at the diner enjoying your lunch and you overhear something. You didn’t meant to, but it happens to everybody. As an elected official, I have to be very careful, because in one sense I do want to know what my constituents are thinking, but on the other hand, we all need to respect each other’s privacy. What I overheard the other day was something that I feel the need to address, so I hope the person who said it gets the chance to read this.
What I overheard was this – “I’ve stopped watching the news because I’m tired of the constant arguing between the democrats and republicans in Madison and in Washington.” I don’t blame the person for feeling that elected officials are unable to find common ground. That’s what makes the headlines. And while it is true that we have serious policy disagreements, the reality is that we do, more often than you would think, find ways to work together.
Both the State Assembly and Senate were in session this week debating a host of bills, the vast majority of which were passed unanimously in both houses. I am proud to be the second author on one of these bill, Senate Bill 380 (SB 380), which will make innovative telehealth services available to more Wisconsinites. The bill is the result of months of collaborative work with Senator Dale Kooyenga (R – Brookfield), Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R – Clinton), Representative Debra Kolste (D – Janesville), the Wisconsin Hospital Association and Governor Evers’ appointees at the Department of Health Services.
Telehealth is one of the fastest-growing areas of healthcare today. Telehealth is the delivery of health care services remotely by means of telecommunications technology, but many of these service are not available to a significant segment of Wisconsin’s population. Telehealth does not replace an in-person visit, but rather enhances it and is only utilized when appropriate. Medicaid recipients and providers are currently unable to leverage telehealth’s true potential. Numerous studies, including Wisconsin’s own state employee health insurance program, have determined that creating access to care through telehealth is a cost-effective strategy for the state’s Medicaid program.
Once this bill becomes law, our Medicaid program will be able to cover telehealth the same as in-person care when the quality of the care provided is functionally equivalent, increase the number of telehealth-related services that are covered, cover in-home or community telehealth services and increase access to behavioral health via telehealth. Here in the North, where the nearest health care provider for some folks can be an hour or more away by car, this has the potential to improve health, save money and importantly, save time and reduce stress.
That’s the story I wish the person I could hear on the news. While I often disagree with my colleagues, we can and do work together to find common ground. SB 380 is proof that it’s not all name calling and gridlock.